Tag:Toronto Blue Jays
Posted on: August 13, 2009 6:17 pm
 

Taking Chemistry 101 with White Sox, Phillies

Those who believe in clubhouse chemistry now have two riveting experiments to watch in these final six weeks: Alex Rios and his Chicago White Sox teammates, and Pedro Martinez and his Philadelphia Phillies teammates.

Both situations involve winning teams with high expectations, a new player with baggage and current players who are popular in the clubhouse and stand to lose playing time.

It is widely believed that Rios' arrival will punch Jermaine Dye's ticket out of town. Dye, a free agent this winter, Rios, Carlos Quentin and Scott Podsednik equal four players for three spots. So? Manager Ozzie Guillen's job just became ever-more challenging. And unless there's mega-understanding, somebody's not going to be happy with each new lineup card posting.

Between general manager Kenny Williams' uber-aggressiveness and Guillen's take-no-crap manner, these are just the guys to handle it. What these Sox have done so well over the years is put winning first, rather than cater to personalities, and that's not changing now.

"That's what we do here," Guillen told Chicago reporters this week. "We hurt your feelings? That's easy. Call your agent, your agent will call [general manager] Kenny Williams and then Kenny will do something about it."

The biggest key might be how much of an effort Rios makes. In Toronto, several sources say, he rubbed several teammates the wrong way with his disinterest in working too hard.

Meantime, Martinez's arrival has pushed veteran Jamie Moyer to the bullpen. Moyer is not a happy camper, and Pedro, historically a diva, could cause a clubhouse rift down the stretch. Especially if he isn't winning. Moyer, integral to the Phillies' World Series title last year, is popular with teammates and is viewed as a mentor by younger Phils (which, yes, pretty much includes all of them being that Moyer is 46).

The prediction here is that, as usual, it will come down to performance and wins in the end. If Rios hits and the Sox win, the rotating outfield quartet will be all smiles. If he doesn't and they don't, it could get ugly.

In Philly, same thing. Pedro's act always has tilted toward the endearing when he's winning, and toward the grating when he's not. His debut with the Phils, a 12-5 win over the Cubs, was a start. If he improves from there, the Phillies' callous shoving aside of Moyer will be far more easily overlooked in the clubhouse.

And if not, Pedro may not be around for the long haul, anyway. And maybe Moyer makes a triumphant, late-season return to the rotation.

At the very least, both situations have the chance to work out splendidly ... or to turn catastrophic. Either way, it'll be must-see TV.

********

How good are the New York Yankees' chances of playing in another World Series?

History tells us this: Dating back to 1995, eight of the 14 teams that owned the best record in baseball on Aug. 13 have advanced to that year's World Series (and four of those teams won).

The eight best record on Aug. 13/World Series teams: 2007 Boston Red Sox, 2006 Detroit Tigers, 2005 Chicago White Sox, 2004 St. Louis Cardinals, 1999 New York Yankees, 1998 New York Yankees, 1996 Atlanta Braves and 1995 Cleveland Indians.

The four World Series winners: 2007 Red Sox, 2005 White Sox, the 1999 Yankees and the '98 Yankees.

The Yankees, by the way, are the seventh different team over the past seven seasons to own the best record in baseball on Aug. 13.

Likes: Caught The Bob Dylan Show -- Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Dylan -- in Lake Elsinore, Calif., on Wednesday night and it was fantastic. Great venue -- at The Diamond, home of the Lake Elsinore Storm, Single A affiliate of the San Diego Padres -- gorgeous night and great sound. Willie Nelson opened, playing for about an hour, and the man may be 76, but his voice is timeless. Of course, his classics Whiskey River and On the Road Again were great, and a couple of Hank Williams numbers mid-show, Jambalaya and Hey Good Lookin', were really cool. Mellencamp rocks, though one of his highlights was an acoustic version of Small Town. He brought out his 14-year-old son, Speck, to play guitar on his final number, The Authority Song, and Mellencamp teased him pretty good ("Now you know you're not in the band, right?"). Pink Houses, Crumblin' Down, Rain on the Scarecrow and a couple of his new songs were stellar. Then, last came the master. And while I've heard Dylan can be maddeningly inconsistent, and barely able to be understood sometimes when he sings, I've gotta say, he and his five-man band were far better than I expected. There isn't any interplay with the audience, but that's fine. Watching Dylan was the same feeling I got when I was in a baseball clubhouse when Muhammad Ali entered a couple of springs ago. To me, there are only a very small handful of icons that can make you sit back and go, 'Whoa', and the reclusive Dylan -- like Ali -- is one. He killed on Thunder on the Mountain and Summer Nights, among many others. All Along the Watchtower, his show closer, was terrific. The Times, They Are A-Changing was barely recognizable until about a third of the way in, but it was great. Two songs from the new album, Beyond Here Lies Nothin' and Jolene, were highlights. All in all, when you can catch three Hall of Famers in one venue on one night, that's a pretty darn good night. ... Oh yeah, and there was a fourth Hall of Famer, too: Basketball legend -- and former Grateful Dead groupie -- Bill Walton was rockin' in the standing room area in front of the stage, about 20 feet to my right. Looked like people were leaving him alone and letting him enjoy the show.

Dislikes: A Cubs fan throws beer on Shane Victorino during Wednesday night's game? All these years later, and Lee Elia is still right. ... Can we just get past the Aug. 17 signing deadline so we don't have to listen to more of the Stephen Strasburg negotiations. Every baseball man I talk to expects, with Scott Boras as the adviser, that it will go right up until the midnight EDT deadline on the 17th. ... Aw, they sold out of the cool Bob Dylan Show concert poster I was going to pick up on my way out of the Lake Elsinore ballpark at Wednesday night's show. It would have looked so good on my office wall, too.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I'm listening to Billy Joe Shaver
"And I'm reading James Joyce
"Some people they tell me
"I got the blood of the land in my voice"

-- Bob Dylan, I Feel a Change Comin' On

Posted on: July 30, 2009 11:42 pm
Edited on: July 31, 2009 2:37 am
 

Rangers talking Halladay with Jays

The Texas Rangers, financially strapped but loaded with prospects, were pursuing Toronto ace Roy Halladay on Thursday night as one of their brightest young pitchers, Derek Holland, showed the world what the next generation of Rangers could produce in throwing a gem against the Seattle Mariners.

The Rangers are serious about their pursuit of Halladay, according to a source with knowledge of the team's thinking. But, the source added, the club does not intend to dip too deeply into its carefully rebuilt farm system and will move on if Toronto insists on what the Rangers deem as too much.

A successful last-minute Rangers strike for Halladay seems highly unlikely based on the organization's shaky financial standing and on the fact that the Rangers have had a firm philosophy in place for the past couple of seasons to build from within -- and that philosophy now appears tantalizingly close to paying off big.

The publication Baseball America rated the Rangers No. 1 in the game in its 2009 organizational talent rankings. Holland, a left-hander in just his second full professional season, was sensational in allowing only two hits over 8 2/3 innings in Texas' 7-1 win over Seattle on Thursday night.

Holland was ranked as the organization's second-best prospect for 2009 by Baseball America. Another pitcher, right-hander Neftali Perez, was first. Lefty Martin Perez was No. 5 and right-hander Michael Main was No. 10.

Under club president and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, the Rangers are determined to develop power pitchers who throw strikes.

But under owner Tom Hicks, the Rangers are in such bad shape financially that they had to seek a loan from major-league baseball to meet payroll last month. While they maybe could re-arrange some things for 2010 to fit Halladay's $15.75 million salary into their budget -- for one thing, they could forego re-signing free agents Hank Blalock, Vicente Padilla and Marlon Byrd.

But as for the approximately $4.75 million due to Halladay this year, that could be a problem. And unless the Blue Jays change their mind, general manager J.P. Ricciardi told colleague Danny Knobler on July 12 that the Jays would not kick in any money to pay part of Halladay's salary.

"We don't want to hear that somebody's not available, and we don't want to hear that they can't handle the money," Ricciardi said.

The Jays surely could find plenty to their liking in Texas' rich system in a deal for Halladay. So, too could other organizations in other trade discussions: The Rangers have been a very popular stop along the trade-talk circuit because of their wealth of young talent.

 

Posted on: July 30, 2009 5:30 pm
 

Others wait as Halladay talks play out

They're stacked up like jets on a runway, but rival clubs waiting in line for Toronto to move third baseman Scott Rolen, infielder Marco Scutaro and relievers Scott Downs, Justin Frasor and/or Brandon League don't appear close to receiving clearance.

The problem is that Toronto, deep in trade talks for Roy Halladay, has not yet moved its ace. And one source with a club in talks with the Blue Jays says that's holding everything else up.

Cincinnati has been trying to work toward a Rolen deal for much of the week. Minnesota is interested in Scutaro (and Oakland's Orlando Cabrera, but reports of the Twins' interest in Freddy Sanchez before Pittsburgh dealt him to San Francisco were greatly overexaggerated). Several clubs have inquired about Downs, Frasor and League.

And meantime, the two Los Angeles clubs, Boston and Texas continue to look for an opening in the Halladay negotiations.

Posted on: July 30, 2009 5:08 pm
Edited on: July 30, 2009 7:13 pm
 

Dodgers: Now full steam toward Halladay?

Even after putting a deal in place to acquire Baltimore closer George Sherrill, a source familiar with the Dodgers' plans says it remains "very possible" that Los Angeles could still trade for Toronto ace Roy Halladay.

However, "very possible" isn't the same as likely, to hear Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti tell it. Colletti said Thursday afternoon that he believes the club stands a better chance of acquiring more relief help by Friday's non-waivers trade deadline than a starter.

"As of right here, right now, very slim," Colletti said when asked to characterize the Dodgers' chances of acquiring a starter. "Very slim between now and [Friday]. After that, there will be some other starters come available [via the waiver wire in August]. But right now, the teams I've had conversations with, it doesn't appear as if we'll find a match."

The Dodgers have engaged the Blue Jays in talks for Halladay for several days, and in these final hours before the deadline, we're about to find out how serious they are.

One of the pieces believed to be discussed between the Dodgers and Blue Jays, third baseman Josh Bell, will be on his way to Baltimore once the Sherrill deal is finalized, according to sources.

But beyond Bell, the Dodgers have several prospects they could dangle without offering Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw from their rotation. Young right-hander James McDonald, who pitched in relief the National League Championship Series last October against the Phillies, is one.

Others include right-hander Josh Lindblom and infielder Blake DeWitt. In discussions between the clubs, the Jays have told the Dodgers that Halladay could be theirs for a package of five or six prospects without costing them anyone on the major-league roster.

With Philadelphia having acquired Cliff Lee on Wednesday, the field for Halladay has diminished dramatically. The Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox appear to be the three clubs with the most realistic chance of making a deal for the ace.

But sources with knowledge of the talks say the Angels have made their best offer, and it does not include shortstop Erick Aybar or Jered Weaver and that they do not plan to sweeten it.

The Red Sox remain the club that is dangerously silent -- publicly, at least. They are known to be in on talks regarding Halladay, Cleveland slugger Victor Martinez and San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

Posted on: July 13, 2009 9:42 pm
 

Halladay opens up about trade prospect

ST. LOUIS -- Not only will Tuesday night's All-Star Game start put Toronto's Roy Halladay on the biggest stage of his career, it also will be one of the most public auditions he'll make in his new life as trade bait for a contender.

But what's more newsworthy is that the very private Halladay spoke at length Monday about the possibility of leaving his beloved Toronto. And he sounded like a man who mentally has one foot out the door already. Which is notable in that he has full no-trade powers and must sign off on any deal.

"The team's open to looking and I'm open to it," Halladay said. "It's kind of, 'Let's see what happens and go from there.'"

The longtime ace of Toronto's staff finally seems resigned to the fact that if he is going to pitch in October for the first time in his 12-year career, it's going to have to be in a uniform other than that of the Blue Jays.

"For me, that's been the biggest struggle," Halladay said. "To (Toronto general manager) J.P. Ricciardi's credit, when I signed my extension, that was the focus for him. He said they were going to try and win. I believe they did the best they could to try and win.

"But financially, the economy, maybe you get to the point where we have to change direction a little bit."

The economy has hit Toronto hard. The Blue Jays rank 12th in the American League in attendance, ahead of only Cleveland and Oakland, and next year's payroll is expected to be lower than the current $80 million. As such, in a division with big spenders Boston and the Yankees, and including a very talented Tampa Bay club, the Blue Jays' immediate prospects for contending do not look good.

From Toronto's perspective, one thing that has to factor in is the disappointing return they got when pitcher A.J. Burnett fled via free agency last winter: The Jays were expecting two draft picks, but aside from the sandwich pick they got following the first round, they were stunned when events played out to net them only a third-round pick from the Yankees.

One of the most telling glimpses into Halladay's current thinking was in how he answered the question of being traded to a large-market club. He's thrived in the out-of-the-way quiet of Toronto, and he does not enjoy the spotlight.

But he also sounds ready to compromise on that for a chance to win.

"I think so," he said. "That's what made Toronto great for me. It is quiet. It is a great place.

"But I think you've got to take a chance sometimes. Wherever that may be, there is a point in your career where you know you need to take a chance and try it and win."

At 32, Halladay seems ready to take that chance. Even if it is in New York, where he says he would not be intimidated.

"No," he said. "I'm sure a lot of media people wouldn't love me. For me, I've always been able to separate what I do on the field from off the field, and I've realized I can't always make everybody happy all the time."

He also said that although he's played his entire career in the American League, he wouldn't necessarily be adverse to pitching in the National League and, thus, batting (which should be music to Philadelphia's ears).

"Once you go from the American League East," he said, smiling. "Not that there aren't great teams out there, but it's a tough decision. I'd rather hit than have to face (Derek) Jeter, A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez), (Hideki) Matsui, (Mark) Teixeira and those guys."

Halladay, thoughtful and reflective throughout the interview, said he doesn't yet know whether he would ask for an extension of his current deal (roughly $7 million remaining this year and $15.75 million in 2010) in exchange for waiving his no-trade clause, as some major league executives believe he will.

"It's a little bit down the road for me," he said. "All I can tell you is that my priority will be to win. I've been fortunate to have been taken care of fine in Toronto. As a younger player, maybe is at the beginning of a career, that's important. Now, the emphasis is on winning. As far as thinking that far, I really haven't gotten there. It just hasn't come up."

Whether Halladay will be traded by the July 31 deadline, he said, "for me, it will be the flip of a coin. I really believe that. I think there is so much that goes into it. I'm still not 100 percent sure what direction we're going to take in Toronto, if Toronto does decide to do something."

There are many in the game who think that Ricciardi is sending out feelers now and that the Blue Jays will wind up trading Halladay this winter, rather than this July.

Whatever the timetable, after listening to Halladay on Monday, you have to believe that he's already begun cutting the emotional ties in one of the most calculated gambles of his career -- and, on Toronto's part, in recent franchise history.

 

Posted on: April 13, 2009 5:53 pm
 

A modest proposal to the schedule-makers

As the final batch of home openers is played this week, please join me in a standing ovation for those in Cleveland who braved that entire fiasco on Friday.

All 500 of them.

In case you somehow missed it, the Blue Jays beat Cleveland 13-7 in the Indians' home opener on an afternoon that included a 3-hour, 47-minute rain delay.

So for the few hundred fans who made it through the ninth inning -- out of a first-pitch crowd of some 42,000 -- score that a 7-hour, 12-minute opener.

Biggest reason they didn't call the game? Toronto was making its only trip to Cleveland of the year.

Which is exactly the problem. It was shades of Seattle playing Cleveland the first week of the Indians' home schedule two years ago, when a blizzard killed four games and sent the Indians' and Mariners' schedules into chaos.

I thought the schedule-makers would have learned their lesson then, that lesson being: In cold weather cities, early-season opponents should all be clubs that will make two or three visits to that particular city during the season.

But the schedule-makers are a stubborn lot.

Look, I'm not jumping on them, because they've got a tough, tough job. And I get tired each year of listening to the whining about how the cold-weather teams should all open on the West Coast or in domes.

Yes, it makes sense on the surface.

But in the big picture, you're going to tell the Indians, Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs and others that they can never open the season at home? And deprive those fans of ever getting the first game of the season at home?

And furthermore, possibly put other clubs at a competitive disadvantage because, if the eastern teams always open the season on the road, then they're going to get an inordinate share of home games later?

Sending the eastern teams west, or to domes, early in the season is not as obvious an answer as it seems. Bottom line is, it's baseball, it's outside, and in April there's going to be some weather. There was a 51-minute rain delay Friday night in San Diego, of all places.

But to send Seattle or Toronto to Cleveland early, when the Mariners and Blue Jays don't have a trip there the rest of the season (and, thus, no easy way to make up postponements), the schedule-makers have got to find ways around that.

Likes: Love all of the day games this early in the season. Wish there were more later. ... San Francisco coach Tim Flannery hitting fungos during batting practice, bouncing one final grounder to second baseman Emmanuel Burriss and shouting as he hits it, "I've got a 100-game hitting streak on the line!" -- and then running to first base to challenge Burriss as he fields the ball. ... Boston outfielder Jason Bay, a class act. ... The Rally Monkey video in Anaheim in which the primate plays the Tom Cruise role, dancing to Bob Seger's Old Time Rock and Roll. ... The chicken parmesan pizza at Spirito's in Carlsbad.

Dislikes: If the start of this season gets any sadder, we're all going to need extra boxes of tissues. First Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart is killed in an auto accident, and Monday Hall of Fame Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas is found passed out in the broadcast booth in Washington, D.C., roughly 30 minutes before the start of the Nationals' home opener. Sleep well, Harry. You're already sorely missed.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Lazy stadium night
"Catfish on the mound.
"'Strike three,' the umpire said,
"Batter have to go back and sit down.

"Catfish, million-dollar-man,
"Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can.

"Used to work on Mr. Finley's farm
"But the old man wouldn't pay
"So he packed his glove and took his arm
"An' one day he just ran away.

"Catfish, million-dollar-man,
"Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can.

"Come up where the Yankees are,
"Dress up in a pinstripe suit,
"Smoke a custom-made cigar,
"Wear an alligator boot.

"Catfish, million-dollar-man,
"Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can.

"Carolina born and bred,
"Love to hunt the little quail.
"Got a hundred-acre spread,
"Got some huntin' dogs for sale.

"Catfish, million-dollar-man,
"Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can.

"Reggie Jackson at the plate
"Seein' nothin' but the curve,
"Swing too early or too late
"Got to eat what Catfish serve.

"Catfish, million-dollar-man,
"Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can.

"Even Billy Martin grins
"When the Fish is in the game.
"Every season twenty wins
"Gonna make the Hall of Fame.

"Catfish, million-dollar-man,
"Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can."

-- Bob Dylan, Catfish


 

Posted on: February 22, 2009 12:20 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2009 7:43 am
 

Burnett at home in pinstripes

TAMPA, Fla. -- A.J. Burnett's favorite part, so far, of the Yankee Experience?

"They rake the mounds between comebackers," he says in wonder, referring to the pitchers' fielding practice drills here. "It's unbelievable. I've never seen anything like it.

"You take a break, come back to the mound and they've raked it. It's the greatest thing ever."

As F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, the rich are different than you and me. And, yes, the Yankees are different than Burnett's old club, the Toronto Blue Jays. Or just about anybody else, for that matter.

As the Blue Jays work to overcome the loss of Burnett and key injuries to starters Dustin McGowan and Shaun Marcum at their camp roughly 30 minutes away, Burnett is starting the next chapter of his career alongside CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and the rest of the Bronx Bombers' luxury models.

Here, he sort of blends in despite his five-year, $80.5 million deal. But truth be told, he's taken a little bit of Toronto with him.

He was No. 2 to ace Roy Halladay there and, during his three years with the Jays, it was evident that Halladay's work ethic, approach and maturity rubbed off on Burnett.

"He had a big influence on me," Burnett says. "Doc's more of a lead-by-example guy. What he showed me was that no matter how good you are, you can always get better. Doc did that. When you thought he was unbelievable, he'd be more unbelievable."

Burnett has a lot in common with Halladay. Both are hard throwers who can overpower hitters when they choose to. But that last part is important. Halladay helped teach Burnett that a strategy of attempting to overpower hitters on every single pitch is a plan that eventually will lead to doom.

Take some speed off sometimes, Halladay showed Burnett, and you'll be surprised by how much movement you can achieve.

"I think all young hard-throwers are like that," Burnett says. "You want to challenge people all the time.

"I stopped trying to strike everybody out, and more strikeouts came."

Halladay's influence also resulted in another key development for Burnett: He learned more about his body, and which arm pain is worth worrying about and which is the kind of pain an elite pitcher should be able to pitch through.

"I was tired of not staying on the field," Burnett says. "You're never too old to learn. You're never too old to not get better."

You could almost see the light click on for Burnett sometime around mid-2007. His 204 innings pitched last year ranked sixth in the majors. That's one thing that helped him become one of the hottest free-agent pitchers on the market after opting out of his Jays contract last fall.

He's never before thrown 200 or more innings in back-to-back seasons, though. So in New York, that's his next challenge.

"I know how many times I've been healthy and I know how many times I've been injured in my career," he says. "I feel if I take care of myself, I'll finally be able to make enough starts."

That happens, and things likely will be very good for both Burnett and for the Yankees.

If it doesn't, well, by season's end, he'll certainly have a different answer for this next question.

His least-favorite part of the Yankee Experience so far?

Burnett looks around the clubhouse, glances at the pinstriped uniforms in the lockers and shakes his head.

"I don't have one."

Likes: Cito Gaston back in the manager's chair during spring training. ... Corey Koskie on the Canadian World Baseball Classic team? The guy needs a break after dealing with post-concussion syndrome for the past two years. ... Ah, Florida. You don't see advertisements like this signage at Minnesota's Hammond Stadium just anywhere: "Mobility Unlimited. Home Oxygen Medical Equipment and Supplies. Rehab Technologies." ... Butler University, my father's alma mater, getting back on the winning side of things Saturday against Davidson. ... What a thing, Nino's Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria, one of the best stops on the spring training tour, has expanded. It's a great, family-owned joint with outstanding food and terrific people, and now that it's bigger, the odds of getting in without a wait are even better.

Dislikes: Florida drivers. Or drivers in Florida.

Sunblock Day? Happy to report the weather is back on track. Sunny and mid-70s today. You'd be disappointed if you were snowbound and read reports that it was cold down here, too, wouldn't you?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day

"Well my time went so quickly
"I went lickety-splitly
"Out to my old '55
"As I drove away slowly
"Feeling so holy
"God knows, I was feeling alive
"Now the sun's coming up
"I'm riding with Lady Luck
"Freeway cars and trucks
Stars beginning to fade"

-- Tom Waits, Ol '55

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com